When a tough or stubborn clog catches you by surprise, your first instinct will be to grab your plunger and get to work. However, the tougher and more stubborn clogs require a different tool, a tool that covers the middle ground between the plunger and a professional: the plumber’s snake.

The plumber’s snake, also known as a drain auger, is a tool that reaches down into pipes to remove those tougher clogs, often too deep to unblock by other methods. They are more versatile and more powerful than the plunger, but take a little of knowledge to use safely and properly, otherwise you might risk causing more damage to your pipes.

Before using a plumber’s snake, it is best to understand what it is and how it works. The tool is a long, flexible metal cable with a small auger or uncoiled auger on the end which looks like a corkscrew. Some are around 50 feet long, with a handle and rotatable hand crank on the other end. It works by directly entering the drain to reach and clear the clog, allowing the free flow of water once more.

Using a plumber’s snake can sometimes be messy, but you may have expected that already, knowing that you’ve got a tough clog down past the drain. You can insert the auger down into the drain, or you can work below by removing the curved piece of pipe beneath the sink, known as the p-trap. If you remove the p-trap, inspect it and clean it out, and if you are lucky, you will have found the obstruction before needing to go any deeper.

As you thread the auger head of the snake into the pipe, keep in mind not to force it down too hard. This is the step that can end up causing more harm than good, as trying to muscle the auger down the pipe can damage the drain entrance or the pipe itself. Uncoil the snake by using the handle, and rotate at a consistent pace. Once you feel pressure, it is likely that you’ve reached the obstruction.

You will move and rotate the head back and forth, trying to break up the clog. Again, do not force or jam the snake into the obstruction, as you could end up scratching and damaging the pipes. When you stop feeling resistance, that is when you will pull the snake back out.

Check the auger head for what remains of the clog and clean it off. Reassemble the pipes and the sink. Next, run the water, and if you were successful, you will see a steady drain flow, meaning that the clog is cleared.

When a plunger won’t work, you need a drain snake. When the drain snake won’t work, you need a professional. That is when you will want to call Kellermeier Plumbing at 616-866-5134. At Kellermeier Plumbing, we pride ourselves on being honest and upfront with our customers and strive to provide our clients with the highest level of service.